Going Deep

The Cowboys want to move back to Fair Park--so, there goes the neighborhood?

She showed them the Fair Park Comprehensive Development Plan, a 53-page document for which the council paid more than $1 million to San Francisco-based Hargreaves Associates. The firm, which delivered its plan to the city council last October, recommended some $186 million in renovations and restorations to the park to make it a year-round venue. The plan calls for everything from the creation of a Museum Green around the Science Place and Museum of Natural History to the opening of Fair Park Boulevard off Haskell Avenue to the restoration of the historic Bank of Lights behind the Hall of State.

"I told them, 'If you're going to pick a location, this is the only location I'd even consider supporting, because it makes sense for us,'" Miller recounts. "I've always said that we've been reactive and not proactive. It's never our priorities; it's always someone else's priorities. You know, Tom Hicks set our priorities doing the AAC deal, Ray Hunt set our priorities when we did Reunion Arena, and now we need to set our priorities and then get our priorities realized."

Within two days of the mayor's visit with the Cowboys, Keliher went to see Stephen Jones to gauge the team's interest in Fair Park, but for reasons different from the mayor's. As far as Keliher was concerned, the only site she could support--and the only site she could see taxpayers supporting--was Fair Park. She wasn't about to ask voters to foot the majority of Jones' bill for a stadium and retail development, especially at the proposed Cedars site between Lamar Street and the Trinity River just east of downtown. A billion-dollar project on 50-cent land seemed, well, wasteful.

"I hate waste," Keliher says. "I hate wasted money or wasted time, and so I just told the Cowboys, 'You know, let's just lay the cards out right now.'"

On February 19, Miller sent Keliher a letter detailing her opposition to the Cedars location. According to Miller's missive, it would have cost $166 million just in environmental remediation and infrastructure improvements, not to mention another $36 million to move the Cadiz Wastewater Pump Station, assuming the Joneses didn't want to build Jerryworld on top of shit creek. Miller told Keliher the city couldn't (and wouldn't) handle the expenditures.

Paul Dyer, head of the city's Park & Recreation Department, says the Cowboys showed real interest only when the team realized there was nearly enough parking already on the site; the team needs some 20,000 spots, and there are already 17,000 within the park's 277 acres.

"My sense was they were needing to go through this process, and they came looking not with casual interest--they brought the designers in; they brought their statisticians in, their financial folks--but you could see after the first couple of meetings their whole attitude shifted," Dyer recalls. "They weren't just passively interested. They were asking really tough questions and saying, 'Well, what about the design? What if we did take the Cotton Bowl out? Who do we talk to, and how do we get a better sense of where we are with this group and this group? Who are the other parties in the park?'"

Ultimately, Stephen Jones credits the mayor and the judge for persuading the Cowboys to reconsider Fair Park. But, he insists, it became the obvious choice when a planned retail development proved too unwieldy and when the team realized the Cedars site had no access to DART. There were, he says, simply "too many moving parts" to make the downtown location work, which made Fair Park more than a convenient fallback; it made it the leading, and only, contender.

Now, Jones likes to talk about the heritage and history of Fair Park. He talks about how he wants to keep Texas-OU at Fair Park, how he wants to get the Cowboys back home. His sales pitch is based on romanticism, tugging at the heartstrings in order to loosen the purse strings. But ultimately, the Cowboys chose Fair Park because it was going to be the easier sell. It's that simple.

"As a political package, it's an easier sell, no question about it," Jones says. "And I think when you think of a venue of this stature, if we can get this pulled off, the amount of people that would come to events is going to...drive investment that will in turn create organic growth. And I think we'll see it."

But when the Cowboys gave the commissioners their proposal on April 30, the vibe was outright contentious as commissioner after commissioner ambled to the podium to tell reporters the team was demanding too much and giving them too little time to negotiate. They were equally appalled by the team's insistence that it would "control all marketing and intellectual property and all economic benefits from all Stadium Project revenue streams"--meaning, everything held in the stadium, from Cowboys and college games to concerts and rodeos and whatever else the place may host.

In other words, the commissioners felt, the Cowboys told the county: Empty your wallet so we can fill ours.

And at least one commissioner, John Wiley Price, is just flat-out against the proposal unless the city of Dallas kicks in $100 million--which Irving has offered to the team to renovate Texas Stadium, should it come to that.

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